cover image As God Commands

As God Commands

Niccolo Ammaniti, , trans. from the Italian by Jonathan Hunt. . Grove/Black Cat, $14.95 (406pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-7067-5

Plans for an ATM heist go terribly wrong for a bumbling gang of Italian ruffians in Ammaniti's latest. Rino Zena, an unemployed single father with neo-Nazi tendencies, can barely keep his teenage son, Cristiano, out of social services. Zeno's friend Danilo Aprea hopes to buy a lingerie shop in order to woo back his wife after the death of their daughter. Their plan, to boost an ATM, hinges on the car-thieving skills of Corrado Rumitz, nicknamed Quattro Formaggi, a not-quite-right misfit obsessed with a porn star named Ramona. After watching Dog Day Afternoon , Rino takes the movie as a sign from God not to go forward with the plan, but word fails to get to Danilo or to Quattro Formaggi, who, on his way to meet up, is distracted by a teenager he thinks is Ramona. When a massive rain storm hits, the series of tragic coincidences quickly turns deadly. Ammaniti, a wonder at creating graphic black comedy, keeps the plot rolling while pushing his characters to their absolute limits, even if the last act is a bit messy. If the Coen brothers ever wanted to go Italian, this'd be prime adaptation material. (Oct.)